Golden Knights hot at home as they face Ducks
LAS VEGAS -- With Las Vegas being such a popular tourist destination, it isn't unusual to see between a quarter to half of the crowd at T-Mobile Arena rooting for and wearing the sweater of the opposing NHL team this season.
However, that isn't bothering the Vegas Golden Knights so far.
The Golden Knights, who host the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night, became the first team in NHL history to win 10 of its first 12 home games in its inaugural season with a 3-2 overtime victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday night.
That victory kicked off a span that will see Vegas (16-9-1) play eight of 10 games on its home ice. It is a key stretch for the surprising Golden Knights, who sit in second place in the Pacific Division.
"It's a good opportunity for us," Golden Knights right winger Reilly Smith, who slammed in a Jonathan Marchessault pass for the game-winning goal with 1:09 remaining in overtime on Sunday. "Anaheim is a good team. They play hard. Last time we played them in their building, I think we played a very good game, so hopefully we can get back to that. We've been good at home so far this year, and we want to keep that streak going."
This will mark the first trip to T-Mobile Arena for the Ducks (11-11-5), who enter the contest in sixth place in the Pacific. Vegas, behind a goal and two assists by Marchessault, defeated Anaheim 4-2 back on Nov. 23 at the Honda Center, a win that briefly propelled the expansion club into first place.
If Ducks fans are anything like their southern California NHL brethren in Los Angeles, or like fans from cities such as Detroit, St. Louis, Boston and Chicago who made the trip to Las Vegas in swarms earlier, expect the crowd to be a pretty even split between home and visitors.
Which begs the question: Why are the Golden Knights doing so well at home?
"I think it's a lot of different factors," said Smith, who has scored seven goals and is second on the team with 14 assists. "Our crowd has been great. They've been awesome. I don't think there's another building in this league that rivals the energy that they bring. We're very fortunate for that."
Anaheim, which has won just one of its past seven games, will be completing a six-game road trip. The Ducks last played on Saturday night in Nashville, where they lost a 3-2 shootout to the Predators in a rematch of their Western Conference final last season.
"It was a game that was physically challenging for both hockey clubs," Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. "We have to take the point and move on."
The Ducks led 2-1 after a goal by Cam Fowler at the 5:01 mark of the third period but couldn't hold on. Calle Jarnkrok tied it a little over six minutes later with a power-play goal, and the contest eventually went to a shootout, where Kevin Fiala and Kyle Turris scored to win it for Nashville.
"We're holding on," said Ducks forward Corey Perry, who assisted on Fowler's goal but had an attempt saved by Predators goalie Pekka Rinne in the shootout. "We know what's going on. ... It's a tough league. It's hard. Anybody can win on any single night. If we play that way, we're going to be OK."